Adore Review: An Absurd, Soft-Core Soap Opera

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It’s never a good thing when your art house drama shares a premise with a Lonely Island song.

The French-Australian film Adore, originally named Two Mothers when it premiered at Sundance this year, is similar in many ways to the Saturday Night Live digital short “Motherlover” starring Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake.  Both feature two sons who decide to sleep with each other’s mothers, and both are pretty damn silly.  But while “Motherlover” is clearly intended to be farcical, Adore is just laughably ridiculous.

There’s a bit more to the story than just a taboo romance.  Based on the Doris Lessing’s novella “The Grandmothers,” the film centers around Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts), two friends have been inseparable since childhood.  The death of Lil’s husband brings them even closer together, as they watch their two sons start up a friendship of their own.

Flashforward to when the two boys are 19.  Lil is still a woeful widow, and Roz’s constantly absent husband Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) has just announced he’s been offered a new job in Sydney and wants to move the family with him.  This is when the affairs start.  Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) can see Roz is upset about the move and attempts to comfort her. Roz’s son Tom (James Frecheville) sees his mother leaving Ian’s room and then starts things up with Lil in some sort of twisted revenge plot.

It’s not that the whole idea isn’t plausible–it is, especially with this good looking of a cast–it’s just that, after some initial hesitation, everything is carried out with such a supreme casualness.  It’s more than a little bizarre.  Lil and Roz giggle over drinks at how they’ve never been happier.  Ian and Tom continue to surf together every day as if nothing’s changed.  The two “couples” eat dinners together as if they’re one big, happy family.  No one even attempts to acknowledge the deeply weird elephant in the room.

There are plenty of other things left unsaid that only add to the movie’s craziness.  How are they able to carry on their relationships for so long without anyone finding out?  Do the two boys have any other friends besides each other and their mothers?  How does Tom feel about the fact that his best friend is essentially breaking up his family?  There’s a scene in which the two boys fight each other while in the ocean, but it’s never fully explained and nothing ever comes of it.  On top of all this, there are some underlying lesbian tones that Roz and Lil never give into.  It’s another layer that only further complicates the awkwardness onscreen.  What could have been an interesting examination of forbidden desires is played off as something so normal, even though it’s anything but.

Watts and Wright are two actresses at the top of their game, but even their talent isn’t enough to lift the script out of telenovela territory.  The film takes place in a small beach town in Western Australia and, thanks to cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, is filled with lush ocean landscapes and gorgeous hillside views.  Still, under the direction of Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel), we’re left with nothing more than a skin deep portrayal of two women’s romantic yearnings gone awry.

Perhaps if the characters were a little more developed, and little more concerned with the situation at hand, we’d have something worth talking about.  Instead, Adore is simply trash trying to disguise itself as art. Grade: D


By Mike Papirmeister

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